During the week of July 28, the Environmental Protection Agency held hearings in four cities. The two-day sessions were to allow the public to give input regarding the proposed rules it released on June 2 that will supposedly cut U.S. CO2 emissions by 30 percent.
I was at the Atlanta hearing. The following is a slightly edited version of what I prepared for my testimony:
I've listened to the well-intentioned pleas from many who have begged you, the EPA, to take even stronger action than this plan proposes. An attorney's testimony told about seeing "carbon pollution" every day from his 36th floor office "a few blocks from here" from where he looks "out over a smog-covered city."
The passion of these commenters supersedes their knowledge as none of the issues that have been brought up are something caused by carbon dioxide — a clear, colorless gas that each of us breathe out and plants breathe in.
This rule is not about pollution. It is about shutting down coal-fueled power plants and killing jobs and raising electricity rates — both of which punish people who can least afford it. But plenty of others have addressed the economic impact so I won't take more of my time on that topic.
But, I do want to address the constitutionality of the proposed plan, as it does exactly what the Supreme Court admonished the EPA about on June 23. Justice Antonin Scalia, for the majority, wrote this about the Tailoring Rule decision: "Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution's separation of powers… The power of executing laws ... does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice." Yet, this is exactly what this proposed plan will do.
Later in the decision, Scalia says: "When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate 'a significant portion of the American economy' ... we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism. We expect Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign an agency decisions of vast 'economic and political significance.'"
I believe on these grounds, this plan must not go forward.
I fear that if it does, America will pay a dear price.
In a reduced-power environment businesses will move to places where they have access to energy that is effective, efficient, and economical. They will move, as many have already done, to places with far-looser environmental policies and the perceived gain will be lost.
Thinking that what we do in the United States will have a serious impact on global carbon dioxide emissions is like thinking that declaring a "no pee" section in the swimming pool will keep the water urine free.
I'll end with a quote from the smog-viewing attorney who closed with: "I am hopeful that my new grandchildren, who will live into the 22nd century, will enjoy a world that my grandparents, born in the 19th century, would recognize." If this plan is passed, he may get his wish. His grandparents' world contained none of the energy-based modern conveniences or medical miracles we consider standard and essential today. In his grandparents' day, life expectancy in the United States was estimated at 45 years. By 2000, this had increased to 78 years — mostly due to our expansion of cost-effective electricity throughout the nation.
Remember, the countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are those with the highest energy consumption.
While the public hearings are over, you can still give the EPA your comments online. Please add your voice to the debate. http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule